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«Some Psychological Consequences of the Anatomical Distinction between the Sexes by Sigmund Freud EDITOR'S NOTE: This paper was finished by August, ...»

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I am inclined to set some value on the considerations I have bought forward upon the 260 psychical consequences of the anatomical distinction between the sexes. I am aware, however, that this opinion can only be maintained if my findings, which are based on a handful of cases, turn out to have general validity and to be typical. If not, they would remain no more than a contribution to our knowledge of the different paths along which sexual life develops.

In the valuable and comprehensive studies on the masculinity and castration complexes in 7 women by Abraham (1921), Homey (1923), and Helene Deutsch (1925) there is much that touches closely on what I have written but nothing that coincides with it completely, so that here again I feel justified in publishing this paper.


1. Ernest Jones writes: 'There is little doubt that Freud found the psychology of women more enigmatic than that of men. He said once to Marie Bonaparte: "The great question that has never been answered and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is 'What does a woman want?"' Unfortunately Jones gives no date for this remark. Freud himself suggests a part explanation of his difficulty in the last paragraph of Section I of his later paper on 'Female Sexuality' (1931 b), where he attributes it to a peculiarity in his transference- relation with women. Back to Top

2. A similar position was adopted in the Autobiographical Study (1925d): 'boys concentrate their sexual wishes upon their mother and develop hostile impulses against their father as being a rival, while girls adopt an analogous attitude' (Standard Ed., 20, 36). But here Freud added a footnote in 1935 with a drastic correction of his earlier views and an explanation of how they arose: 'The information about infantile sexuality was obtained from the study of men and the theory deduced from it was concerned with male children. It was natural enough to expect to find a complete parallel between the two sexes; but this turned out not to hold.' And he went on to give the gist of the findings first announced in the present paper. Back to Top

3. The most important addition made in this was the discovery, based on fresh casematerial, of the strength and duration of the little girl's pre-Oedipus attachment to her mother. Back to Top

4. This was further discussed in 'The Taboo of Virginity' (1918a). Back to Top

5. In the paper on narcissism (1914c), this primary fact is again stated (Standard Ed., 14, 87-8), but somehow passed over; and the distinction between the early libidinal objects of boys and girls becomes concentrated on the distinction between the anaclitic and narcissistic types of object-choice. Back to Top

6. In English in the original. It is not clear what author Freud had in mind. The reference to Horace is to his Ars Poetica, 388. Back to Top 7. 'The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex' (1924d) [Standard Ed., 19, p. 173. Much of what follows is an elaboration of that paper]. Back to Top

8. Cf. Ibid., p. 176. Back to Top

9. Cf. Ibid., p. 175. Back to Top 10. Cf. the discussions in the 'Wolf Man' analysis (1918b), Standard Ed., 17, especially 48-60 and 95-7, and Lecture XXIII of the Introductory Lectures (1916-17). Back to Top 11. Cf.

Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905d) [Standard Ed., 7,179]. Back to Top

12. See Editor's footnote to 'The Infantile Genital Organization,' [Standard Ed., 19, 143]. Back to Top

13. This is an opportunity for correcting a statement which I made many years ago. I believed that the sexual interest of children, unlike that of pubescents, was aroused, not by the difference between the sexes, but by the problem of where babies come from. We now see that, at all events with girls, this is certainly not the case. With boys it may no doubt happen sometimes one way and sometimes the other; or with both sexes chance experiences may determine the event. [The statement mentioned at the beginning of this footnote appears in more than one place: e.g. in the paper on 'The Sexual Theories of Children' 1908c), Standard Ed., 9, 212, in the case history of 'Little Hans' (1909b), ibid., 10, 133, and in a passage added in 1915 to the Three Essays (1905d), ibid., 7, 195. In a passage earlier than any of these, however, in a paper on 'The Sexual Enlightenment of Children' (1 907c), ibid., 9, 135, Freud in fact takes the opposite view the one 8 advocated here]. Back to Top

14. This term seems to have been introduced by Van Ophuijsen (1917). Freud adopted it in "A Child is Being Beaten" (1919e), Standard Ed., 17, 191. Cf. also p. 178 above. Back to Top

15. For the parallel process in boys, see 'The Infantile Genital Organization' (1923e), pp.143-4 above. Back to Top

16. Cf. Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920g), Standard Ed., 18, 20-1. Back to Top

17. In my first critical account of the 'History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement' (1914d) [Standard Ed., 14, 54-51, I recognized that this fact represents the core of truth contained in Adler's theory. That theory has no hesitation in explaining the whole world by this single point ('organ-inferiority,' the 'masculine protest,' 'breaking away from the feminine line') and prides itself upon having in this way robbed sexuality of its importance and put the desire for power in its place! Thus the only organ which could claim to be called 'inferior' without any ambiguity would be the clitoris. On the other hand, one hears of analysts who boast that, though they have worked for dozens of years, they have never found a sign of the existence of a castration complex. We must bow our heads in recognition of the greatness of this achievement, even though it is only a negative one, a piece of virtuosity in the art of overlooking and mistaking. The two theories form an interesting pair of opposites: in the latter not a trace of a castration complex, in the former nothing else than its consequences. Back to Top 18. "A Child is Being Beaten"(1919e) Standard Ed., 17,184-5. Back to Top

19. A reference to clitoridal masturbation in girls appeared in the first edition of the Three Essays (1905d), Standard Ed., 7, 220. In the course of his 'Contributions to a Discussion on Masturbation' (1912f), Freud expressed regret at the lack of knowledge about female masturbation (Standard Ed., 12, 247). Back to Top

20. Cf. 'The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex.' Back to Top 21. Ibid. Back to Top  


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